Anxiety is a common problem that many of us face every single day. A lot of the time, people don’t know how to interact with someone who has anxiety, because it still feels like it isn’t recognised as a ‘proper’ or ‘real’ mental illness. Often, our very valid and very real emotions relating to anxiety are boiled down to an overreaction or being ‘too sensitive’. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a load of BS – anxiety is one of the realest things that someone can suffer with, and it can only be made more difficult by the ways in which society treats those with anxiety. Here are 5 things that anxiety sufferers are sick of hearing and, if you don’t suffer with anxiety then take note – here are 4 things that you shouldn’t say to someone who does.
“JUST GET OVER IT”
Against their will, anxiety sufferers are often drawn into a battle with themselves any time a situation doesn’t pan out exactly as planned. Oftentimes, situations are replayed with varying outcomes depending on how we could have behaved or what we could have said differently at that time. Many a time are we told to “just get over it” – but it’s not as simple as that. It’s not a choice to have anxiety and it seems that people forget that this isn’t something that we can switch on and off as we please. Once we become fixated on a situation whereby we wanted a different outcome, those with anxiety can’t just ‘let it go’. It can sometimes be all-consuming, it might sometimes be a fleeting thought, or it could be something that we’re still thinking about years later. Instead of telling someone to ‘just get over it’, I’m sure other anxiety sufferers would prefer some support – why not ask how you can help someone begin to move on from something if you notice that they are struggling.
How many times have we been told to “stop worrying” or to “stop being silly” when in the midst of an anxiety attack? Whether mild or not, it seems to be society’s general consensus that anxiety is something that can be controlled, and therefore be switched on and off. For those who don’t understand – anxiety is uncontrollable. Those who suffer with this mental illness are not in control of how much or little they worry, nor are they in control of how they might react to a situation. Something that might seem like a mere drop in the ocean to you, might actually be the entire ocean to someone who has anxiety, and to be told to “stop worrying” is frankly unhelpful and unsupportive. It is also overlooked that anxiety sufferers sometimes know that their emotions are irrational and that they might not be the usual reactions of someone who does not suffer with anxiety. Being told to “stop worrying” only further impacts our mental health as we’re conscious of how irrational we might be seeming, but we’re powerless to control it.
“YOU’RE ALWAYS SO DRAMATIC!”
It goes without saying that people do overreact to things and embellish their stories so that they’re more dramatic – and therefore more exciting. But you should never, ever tell someone with anxiety that they’re being dramatic or overreacting to a situation. In doing this, you are invalidating their feelings and their experiences relating to anxiety. Due to society’s lack of discussion surrounding anxiety, little is known by the general public about anxiety and often ignorance combined with disbelief causes non-anxiety sufferers to deduce that a situation has simply been blown out of all proportion and that the reaction isn’t justified. Whereas in reality, they have no idea what a person with anxiety is going through at that particular time. Not only this, but someone with anxiety is often well-aware of how their actions and feelings might come across, therefore labelling them as dramatic only feeds their anxiety further. If you think someone is being dramatic – ask them if they’re okay. It might run a lot deeper than you originally thought.
“HAVE YOU TRIED MEDITATING?”
*Eye-roll*. Meditation is and can be a therapeutic way to relax and calm the mind, but everyone who suffers with anxiety experiences it in a different way. Meditation, whilst helpful for some, might not help someone else. To assume that all anxiety sufferers need to do to feel better, is a spot of meditation, is foolish and to suggest that this and this alone will ‘fix’ their mental health is frankly offensive. Anxiety is so much more than feeling a bit unnerved about a situation, and it cannot be switched off, you cannot close a door on it, and it cannot be silenced when in the midst of an attack. Simply meditating is not going to stop anxiety from creeping up on us – in fact, with a lack of external stimulants and such a heavy focus on the internal being, meditation for some could do more harm than good.
Sure, everyone gets anxious, but not everyone has anxiety. A lack of understanding about what anxiety actually is causes judgements to be made about its sufferers. When you are speaking to, having a discussion about, or are suffering with anxiety yourself – then please take care. Be careful with the language you’re using, be supportive if you think someone is struggling and be open to the possibility that anxiety sufferers can’t help how they’re feeling.